The Essentials of Lettering: A manual for students and designers
Thomas E. French and Robert Meiklejohn, from the Ohio State University are the writers of “The Essentials of Lettering: A manual for students and designers” which was first published back in 1912. As stated in the book, and taking its publication date, though its content is absolutely timeless, there are two groups of people who are interested in the science of lettering. Those who use letters to convey information on drawings, as engineering students or architects, and those who use lettering in design as art & design students, as well as craftsmen. Both groups share the same concern for an architectural drawing or a poster, even though the one group is interested mostly in the functionality and the other in the beauty or, in today's terms, the aesthetic.
The draftsmen will find interest in the first chapters of the book, where they can find the techniques of the ordinary lettering in connection with drawing; however the designers shall go further into styles and composition of lettering. Architects on the other hand should focus more on technical drawing, or “mechanical drawing”, which as the writers rightly point out is design, which is based on accepted forms and developed freehand.
“Mechanical drawing is design, which is based on accepted forms and developed freehand.”
But there is no such thing as “mechanical lettering”, each draftsman can simply adapt the style that suits better his particular needs. The map, the architectural, the machine draftsman will each select appropriate letters for his kind of work. Each engineer has its particular branch of drawing according to the subject. For instance, the civil engineer will practice the Modern Roman and the stump letter as these have become standard letters in map drawing or similar work. Architects on the other hand will have no use for Modern Roman, but should study in detail the Old Roman of both early and Renaissance periods.
Some history of the alphabet and the different periods of its developments is also included in the book, because it is an essential part for designers, architects and art students. The contents include: Letter Construction, Composition and Titles, Selection of Titles, Letters in Design, Design and Composition, Monograms also technical advice for drawing reproductions. Apart from the last chapter on technical statements, the rest of the book will be great advatage for those who own it, especially if they are beginners in the design community. Even if it might seem a little bit oldschool, and to a certain point is, be patient because is quite useful for pros who want to refresh briefly some essential knowledge on lettering, get inspired and practice their hand-drawing, or even start thinking on how they will build their own typeface.